The anticipation levels for the second season of Netflix’s hit romance series Bridgerton were so high. Maybe too high – we immersed ourselves so much in the world of Lords and Ladies, the goings-on of the ton and all those beyond gorgeous empire-waist gowns, that our excitement for the return of the Bridgerton world left us with lofty expectations.
I was concerned about season two living up to the hype when I learned that Rege-Jean Page, the standout star of Bridgerton and half the reason we all became so obsessed with the series (that chemistry with Phoebe Dynevor!) wasn’t going to be returning. There wasn’t even any controversy involved in this decision – the showrunners simply decided to stick with the book series’ storylines, which saw the focus taken off our beloved Duke and his bride Daphne, and honed in on eldest Bridgerton son Anthony.
Given the Duke and Daphne’s red-hot romance was the reason so many of us have rewatched, ahem, certain episodes of the first season over and again, it seemed like an odd decision to remain faithful to the novels and leave them to live out their happy life off-screen. Daphne, being Anthony’s younger sister, still makes appearances, and we do get to see their gorgeous baby a few times. Still, it’s a huge loss for the series, and one they absolutely had to make up for with a new central couple that had just as much fire burning between them.
This, sadly, doesn’t happen. Without giving anything away, Anthony’s journey toward true love is a fizzle at best. This is in part because, for me at least, Anthony was never really a character I invested in. Even his far sexier romance with opera singer Siena Rosso didn’t grip me, so naturally his less-hot season two storyline had me reaching for my phone in distraction.
There’s less sex in season two of Bridgerton, but that’s not what makes it less of a sexy season. Even when the Duke and Daphne were pretending to hate each other, their sexual tension crackled. That comes down to great casting, but also just a great romance plotline. The Duke and Daphne story didn’t need tweaking for on screen because it was already a total home run – sweet, innocent Diamond of the ton Daphne, falling for the broken, avoidant Duke? Perfection.
That tension is missing in season two. We get glimpses of it, but by the time we do – around episode five of an eight episode season – it feels forced and calculated, with close-up shots of lips and hands intertwining doing the work of real, palpable chemistry.
What Bridgerton season two gets wrong when it comes to its main romance, it gets right with side plots. The Featherington household meets their new Lord, and nothing goes as expected. It’s fun to watch Penelope, who we now know is Lady Whistledown, collect her secrets, plus the Queen is on a quest to uncover Whistledown’s true identity, and will stop at nothing to end the mysterious gossip.
Eloise Bridgerton joins the ton this season but, in typical Eloise style, is both completely disinterested in finding a husband, and deeply uncomfortable within the world of balls and preening. Instead, she immerses herself in an underground feminism movement. These are the plots I found myself investing in.
Still, when so much screen time is taken up with Anthony’s search for a wife, it felt like work to make it to the end of the season, instead of a delicious indulgence. Then, there’s the clunky and ultimately not that satisfying ending, where things have become such a mess for Anthony that it feels a bit ridiculous when all, of course, is well by the time the final credits roll.
What I’d love to see from season three of Bridgerton is a little more consideration for how the storylines of the novels work on screen. Rege-Jean Page should have been kept on and his character given, if not a full arc, at least some more substantial screen time so we could enjoy seeing him and Daphne explore family life together, for example.
I’d also love for the series to have a more Regency-era conventional romance at its centre. The fact that women join the ton at a certain age and are expected to make a match by the end of the season means there would be far more arranged marriages of convenience than there would be love matches. There is nothing sexier than a simmering slow burn love, and it would be refreshing after two relationships that focused more on instant burning passion.
So no, season two of Bridgerton doesn’t completely lose us – it just bored us. I’ve got a good feeling that season three can capture my attention again.